Ethiopia and Eritrea open border for the first time in 20 years

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopia's PM Abiy Ahmed

The leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea have reopened crossing points on their shared border for the first time in 20 years, clearing the way for trade between former enemies after a surprising reconciliation.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea's president, Isaias Afwerki, opened the border in Bure, a region that saw some of the fiercest fighting during its 1998-2000 war.

Tensions on the border were consumed after the fighting ended, until Abiy offered to end the military confrontation this year as part of a package of reforms that have reformed the political landscape in the Horn of Africa and beyond.

Isaias and Abiy "officially opened the Debay Sima – Burre border crossing point between two countries for road transport connectivity," Eritrea Information Minister Yemane Meskel said in a tweet.

The two leaders then opened the Serha-Zalambesa connection in a second ceremony, showed images on state television in Ethiopia.

The leaders also celebrated the Ethiopian New Year together on the border with their troops, Fitsum Arega, Abiy's chief of staff, said on Twitter.

Images on Fitsum's Twitter account showed the leaders talking and walking side by side, Abiy with camouflaged military uniforms and Isaias in sandals and a safari suit.

Since an agreement was signed in Asmara on July 9 to restore relations, Eritrean and Ethiopian leaders have acted quickly to end two decades of hostility.

Eritrea reopened its embassy in Ethiopia in July, and Ethiopia corresponded last week.

The two countries have resumed flights. Eritrea agreed to open its ports to its neighbor without an outlet to the sea and last week announced plans to improve a connecting highway.

Residents across the border said Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers began clearing land mines.